Reasoning by analogy

Is the military bankrupt? Yes, by the standards the Social Insecurity fraudsters want to apply to the pension system.

My colleague Dan Mitchell, in a letter in today’s Los Angeles Times, points out the absurdity of calling Social Security “bankrupt”:

Those seeking radical restructuring of Social Security use the word “bankruptcy” to mean that the day will come when the program’s trust fund will be exhausted and its earmarked tax revenue will be insufficient to pay all entitlements. By that definition, the military is bankrupt today. We spend about $500 billion per year on the military, including veterans’ payments. Yet the Pentagon

has no earmarked tax revenue and no trust fund. If our indefinite entitlement to national defense were treated analogously to Social Security, the Pentagon’s “unfunded liability” would be on the order of $15 trillion to $20 trillion. Yet no calls for radical restructuring of the “bankrupt” military are heard.

Right. It’s silly to call one of the few programs with its own dedicated funding stream “bankrupt” if there’s a threat that the dedicated funding stream might be insufficient to pay its obligations, when most programs have no such funding stream at all.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: